LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

CVS Caremark is kicking the habit of selling tobacco products at its more than 7,600 drugstores nationwide.

The nation's second-largest drugstore chain, with several stores in Hampton Roads, says it will phase out cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco by Oct. 1 as it continues to focus more on health care.

CVS Caremark Corp. and other major drugstore chains have been adding clinics to their stores for several years. Their pharmacists deliver flu shots and other immunizations, and their clinics also have been expanding the care they deliver.

CVS CEO Larry Merlo says the company decided it can no longer sell cigarettes at places where it also provides health care.

The move will cost the Woonsocket, R.I., company about $2 billion in annual revenue. But CVS executives expect it to also help the health care business grow.

President Barack Obama, a former smoker, says CVS is setting a 'powerful example' and that the decision will help his administration's efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths and disease and bring down health care costs.

The decision is getting a lot of reaction on the WVEC13 Facebook page.

Theresa Campbell wrote, 'Bravo CVS!'

'I applaud this move and will continue to be a CVS customer!!!,' posted Rick Coard.

That was the overriding sentiment from people commenting on the decision.

Others wondered if the company will go further.

Bowen II said, 'But they will still sell wine?' and George Filomarino added, 'Do they sell beer and wine to? If so maybe stop selling that too.'

Tricia Nixon Purvis wrote, 'It's up to them, but I agree with some of the others comments here. Why stop there? They're a pharmacy that sells beer, wine and junk food. That may be a little contradicting.'

Courtney Louise Hunley said, 'People are going to smoke regardless. They will just go to the closest store and buy them.'

CVS Caremark competitor Walgreen Co., the largest U.S. drugstore chain, sells tobacco, as does the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which also operates pharmacies in its stores. Target Corp., another major retailer with pharmacies in its stores, does not.

Discounters such as Family Dollar have started selling tobacco over the last couple years. They note that smokers make more frequent stops at retailers, and their customers are more likely to be tobacco users.

U.S. retail sales of tobacco, which is comprised largely of cigarettes, were about $107.7 billion in 2012, according to market researcher Euromonitor International. Less than 4 percent of retail cigarette sales come from drugstores like CVS and Walgreens.

The share of Americans who smoke has fallen dramatically since 1970, from nearly 40 percent to about 18 percent. But the rate has stalled since about 2004, with about 44 million adults in the U.S. smoking cigarettes. It's unclear why it hasn't budged, but some market watchers have cited tobacco company discount coupons on cigarettes and a lack of funding for programs to discourage smoking or to help smokers quit.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://www.wvec.com/story/news/2014/09/10/14849854/